Giorgio Napolitano, former president of the Italian Republic, dies at 98 | International

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Giorgio Napolitano was the first president in the history of the Italian Republic to serve two terms, between 2006 and 2015, and he became a haven of stability in a particularly turbulent period for the transalpine country. The political leader died this Friday at the age of 98 at the Salvator Mundi clinic in Rome, where he had been admitted for several days due to health complications.

For decades he was a prominent member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), where he was part of the reformist current, which sought a certain relationship with the Italian socialist parties, in what was known as the First Republic, and was also a key figure during the so-called Second Republic. , which arose after the collapse of the entire political system following a corruption case. He also became the first communist president in republican history.

His resume highlights the naturalness with which he knew how to combine his communist career – it summarizes the entire history of the PCI of the “dopoguerra” – with his status as a statesman: Napolitano held positions as delicate as that of president of the Chamber of Deputies and the Minister of the Interior. The Italian newspapers have highlighted, precisely, that he always did what had to be done at all times: the battle against fascism, the construction of a constitutional republic and his commitment to the institutions.

Although he started young in politics, Napolitano reached the peak of his influence at the end of his life, during his first term as President of the Republic, in which he had to face politically delicate and economically turbulent times, with different bosses. of the Government, such as Silvio Berlusconi, the coach Mario Monti or the rivals Enrico Letta and Matteo Renzi.

Although throughout his presidency he remained within the limits of constitutional prerogatives - the Italian Republic provides broad powers for the head of state, especially in periods of great instability in the political system - Napolitano is remembered as a particularly interventionist president.

Giorgio Napolitano, in an image from 1968 in which he poses with a poster of the Italian Communist Party and a photo of Palmiro Togliatti. Mondadori Portfolio (Mondadori Portfolio/Archivio Mar)

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Among other things, during the period of the sovereign debt crisis, which threatened to collapse the Italian economy in 2011, it prompted the resignation of the then Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who did not seem to be fully aware of the seriousness of the situation, despite of the repeated warnings from the European institutions and other heads of government. Next, he appointed a technical government chaired by Mario Monti, which completely assumed the indications from Brussels that included severe cuts in the economy and extreme budgetary rigor. It was a time of sacrifice for Italy. From that moment on, Napolitano, now an elderly man, became a central figure in Italian and European politics.

Two years later, he established a grand coalition under the command of center-left politician Enrico Letta, after inconclusive parliamentary elections, in which the 5 Star Movement obtained a result well above expectations. At the time, he became a controversial president after appointing not one, but two grand coalition governments between the center-left and the center-right that excluded the M5S. The crickets They used it for a long time as a propaganda tool, to politically attack both the Neapolitan himself and the two prime ministers of those years, Enrico Letta, ousted by his own colleague, Matteo Renzi, both from the Democratic Party.

When his first term ended in 2013, numerous parties processioned to his residence to beg him to stay a little longer, exceptionally, to give time for politics to reform and for Italy to restart after the technical government and the serious economic and political crisis. that preceded him. At 90 years old, he accepted the call to the ranks and in his investiture speech he denounced the degeneration of politics in an unprecedented scolding of parliamentarians. A similar situation was repeated last year with Sergio Mattarella, who is currently still in office.

The press began to nickname Napolitano “King Giorgio,” a nickname that began as a criticism and ended up acquiring positive connotations. He liked to explain his conception of politics by quoting the words that the German writer Thomas Mann had addressed from America to the Germans during the Nazi period: “I remain convinced that politics contains a lot of hardness, necessity, amorality, a lot of opportunism, but it can never be completely stripping himself of his ideal and spiritual component, he will never be able to completely deny the ethical and humanly respectable part of his nature.”

Born in Naples in 1925, into a bourgeois family, three years after the beginning of fascist Italy, which would last twenty years, until 1943. A year later and to become a communist, Napolitano broke up with his father, a liberal lawyer. Although he did not follow the path of his mother, he graduated in Law from the University of Naples Federico II in 1947, with a political economy thesis on the “failed development of southern Italy.”

Napolitano made his debut in Parliament in 1953 and spent a life on the left. He was also one of the last surviving leaders of the Communist Party's old guard. A convinced Europeanist and recognized statesman, he was a born leader. The journalist Michele Serra defined it this way in Tango, the satirical supplement of the newspaper linked to the Communist Party L'Unità: “Moderate intellectuals, NATO, the Italian Socialist Party, liberal businessmen, Scalfari like it: yes too If the communists liked it, I would have been secretary a long time ago.”

A grand state funeral similar to the one organized for Silvio Berlusconi last June is expected, as protocol orders, although in that case it was an exceptional circumstance, since the magnate never held the Presidency of the Republic.

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